Roopak Saluja , Founder & CEO , The 120 Media Collective
Roopak Saluja is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer at The 120 Media Collective. He has over 16 years of experience in advertising, account management, client servicing, video content marketing, digital marketing, commercials production and distribution.
He started his career in advertising in account management at Young & Rubicam Budapest in 1998 where he was trained on the Kraft Foods and Danone accounts. In 2001, he moved to Ogilvy & Mather Paris to run the Motorola account for Europe, Middle East & Africa, where he managed the development of the Hellomoto campaign.
He did his MBA from INSEAD, after which he moved to India and set up Bang Bang Films in 2006, an international production company. Then, in 2009, Roopak launched Jack in the Box Worldwide, a digital agency which won prestigious mandates from brands like Pepsi, Unilever, Nivea and Louis Philippe, among others.
In 2013, he established The 120 Media Collective as the parent brand for Bang Bang Films and Jack in the Box Worldwide.
In this exclusive interview with Ratnika Swami for India Digital Review, Roopak talks about the growing importance of video content and digital space in India and how The 120 Media Collective is creating communications solutions and content for audiences and brands across multiple platforms and geographies. Excerpts:
Q. Could you briefly take us through your journey so far? And what hurdles you had to overcome to reach where you are today?
I was in advertising on the agency side in account management and client servicing in Europe for a number of years. I started off in advertising with Young & Rubicam in Budapest and later I was with Ogilvy in Paris. I did my MBA from INSEAD in 2004 and I also did something in the music space in Europe, and then later I decided to set up something in media and entertainment here in India.
I moved to Mumbai in 2005, prior to that I had never worked in India, never lived in Mumbai. Back then, commercials production seemed to be the way to get into this space so I co-founded the company Bang Bang Films along with three others, none of whom are part of the company any longer.
Back in 2006, when it came to commercials production, Asia - Pacific was a very heavily cross-pollinated region. Indian agencies preferred producers from outside the country and that had to do with “large domestic market” syndrome; for example, an agency like Ogilvy Singapore would talk to companies in Singapore, Australia, Malaysia & Thailand, for getting a job done but no one was talking to companies in India, and the converse was also true.
Secondly, the market was dominated by director-centric production companies, so there was no dearth of creativity, but coming from the outside I saw an opportunity to introduce Western class practices observed in the rest of the world. And so we started Bang Bang Films, where our main point of differentiation was that we got in international directors from all over the world and then we supplemented that by operating with a heightened level of professionalism compared to others, which included transparency, accountability, etc. And that worked really well: in four years’ time we had become the largest brand in the commercials production space.
Q. After you launched Bang Bang Films in 2006, what prompted you to get into the digital business?
The word digital was being thrown around a lot in 2008, and we had no idea what it meant back then. It took me a year to figure out what we would need to do to get our production company to go digital and we realized a key opportunity in the space of content. We realized that our mastery of production coupled with our understanding of how to engage with consumers and audiences in the digital space would be a very potent mix.
So that meant that we had to evolve from a “doing company” to a “thinking and doing” (#thinkinganddoing) company.
Now if you start to think as a production company, you can appear to be an asset to agencies, which we were, so we created a separate brand called Jack in the Box. And the way we positioned it, Bang Bang Films and Jack in the Box together were a “thinking and doing” company that produces content for brands across multiple platforms and geographies. Right from a very young age, we have been focused on being an international company.
From 2011 to the end of 2012, we transformed again and metamorphosed into a fully functioning digital agency. We also parted ways with about 20 of our 27 clients and decided to only work with larger clients who had the willingness, propensity and the ability to invest in the digital space and with whom we could grow as well.
Our truly differentiated offering in the digital space has two basic pillars. The first is that our approach, unlike that of most other digital agencies, is deeply rooted in strategy. I think there is no greater substitute to old school advertising when it comes to understanding how to manage brands, and how to build brands and communications and strategy. Right from our chief talent officer Heather Gupta to the head of Jack in the Box Abhishek Razdan, our top team members are actually from old school advertising as we call it and have had training in really solid client servicing and I think that forms our approach. Therefore, the way that we approach communication is just like a JWT would or an Ogilvy would in terms of being very deeply rooted in brand strategy.
The second reason why we have a truly differentiated offering is because of content and content marketing, where one side of it is video content, and on the other side we have developed an understanding of the brand and how to link that knowledge to content. We create the content platforms based on a brand strategy. We create and manage the content, while ensuring engagement with the audience on that platform. We truly believe that digital content platforms are an investment in building your audience so that in the long run you don't have to pay media owners to reach out to their audiences.
Aside from Bang Bang and Jack in the Box there is, of course, The 120 Media Collective, which is a multi-platform content company. We create and produce content for TV, online, and mobile in various forms like short-form content, long-form content, editorial content or a combination of the three. We are also creating our own IP and, over the next few months, our intention is to actually have 50% of our business being based on our own IP, so as to transition from being just a service led business.
Q. Could you please elaborate on your transition into an integrated digital agency?
We realised very quickly that it wasn't just about trading the content; it was also very crucially about the dissemination, the distribution, the engagement, among other things. And for realising that we built up our social media skills and abilities, so in less than a year we evolved into a social media agency.
We found success in creating some campaigns for clients like Puma, among others. We had phenomenal success with Kolaveri Di, which we did for Sony Music, which lasted for about 18 months across the world. So social media as I said before is a great game, as far as that goes, but I think it is a terrible business if you are a smaller company with a new operation and a few younger people and a young entrepreneur or something of that sort. Social media as a business at that time didn't make sense.
However, we realised very quickly that if we wanted to be a serious player in this space then we had to expand our capabilities and become a full fledged integrated digital marketing agency. We had to also develop our skill set and expand our repertoire. We already had the content part of it because we had Bang Bang Films driving that and we had an understanding of social media and the right people on board, but we still needed to bring in people with tech development and coding capabilities, and an understanding of media planning and buying in the digital space.
Q. How do you see the digital media space in India evolving? What are the things you believe are lacking or could be done better?
Mark Pritchard, Global Marketing and Brand Building Officer at Proctor & Gamble, said, 'Digital marketing is dead' and I agree with him completely because the differentiation between marketing and digital marketing will disappear and it will all be marketing, which will have a digital layer to it. So I think we are very well prepared for that. We will see this evolution globally as well as in India.
I think that we are still about 4-5 years away from a situation where you have a majority of top 50 advertisers having a marketing function led by digital natives, but it will happen, and once that happens, it would be truly integrated.
Digital marketing will die, long live digital marketing! Basically, marketing will become digital marketing and vice versa. Secondly, video content consumption is going to be a big driver of a lot of things. We are already known for being producers and content creators in the digital space but I think that in essence for us, a production company can create and produce (120 Media Collective), whereas a content company can create, produce, distribute, monetise, get engagement around and promote the content that we are creating, so it becomes the end-to-end capability.
Between 2006 and 2012, honestly, there was a lot of talk like “Oh, it is going to be different. Digital is coming, digital is growing.” But it was all talk, nothing really happened. In 2013, more changes came than the previous five years put together and I believe that the pace will keep up. 2014 would also be looked at as a major landmark here because a lot has happened.
I think 4G is going to be a game changer, in terms of ensuring that you have major penetration into rural areas, etc. Initially there was a perception that digital marketing was only something which was suitable for categories like automotive or BFSI; now, going forward, you see a lot of FMCG engagement on digital media and as digital becomes something which reaches out to the masses and you will see a lot more things happen.
Q. How important is it for brands to have a social media presence today? And how do you calculate ROI on social media?
Today, if you don't have a social media presence, someone else will create it for you. It is better to create a social media presence and manage it yourself, so that you can be part of the conversation and participate in it. It is a whole different era of marketing now. We don't encourage our clients to look at things like Facebook likes, even though it’s hard not to, but really it’s about engagement levels.
Social media can be used for a whole bunch of different things; for example, with the BeBeautiful content platform for Unilever, we had tremendous success in using Facebook to drive traffic to the site.
It is really based on the influence of content: any content which addresses niche audiences and is able to create a community with high level of engagement will be ranked higher than one which may have much larger numbers, but is something that is consumed without much engagement.
Q. Please share in brief a couple of digital/social media campaigns that your company has done recently or plans to do next and what makes them different or noteworthy?
I think that one needs to look at engagement of brands holistically across platforms, which is why we believe very strongly in content platforms. Content platforms are not the be-all and end-all for everything, and definitely not the solution to every brand's problems; however, there has to be some way where once you have engaged with an audience, you can easily re-engage with them without the effort of acquiring them again and again—and content platforms are a great way of doing it.
Q. Could you also mention some noteworthy digital/social media campaigns, apart from your own campaigns? And what do you think makes them stand out?
Last year, Honda and Wieden+Kennedy London came up with an interactive dual-story video for the Civic and its sportier version, the Civic Type R. The film, titled “The Other Side,” tells the tale of an ordinary guy who leads an intriguing double life. The original video featuring the Civic switches to a parallel storyline featuring the Type R when you press and hold ‘R’ on the keyboard. It is really a work of art.